This question about the environment was posted recently. While no-one can doubt OP enthusiasm I personally don't like questions with loads of little parts that require separate answers. Is that just me? I notice this got upvoted

The reason I don't like them is

  1. I think questions should be tightly focused so that it is obvious what is being asked. Ultimately we what people and search engine to find our content. With a sprawling question that is less likely.
  2. If someone has got 3 questions why not make it a bit easier for people who would like to answer and ask them as three separate questions. Why oblige someone to answer everything you've ever wanted to know about Buddhism in one post? Give them a break.
  3. If some one only knows the answer to some parts and another poster knows some other parts of the question- who get's the accepted answer (I know we are not great at awarding the accepted answer)?

In fairness - at least the above question was around a theme. I'm sure I've seem far looser agglomerations of queries before.

With these questions I would like to

  1. Politely ask OP to split them up
  2. Wait a bit
  3. Ask again and inquire if they need any editing assistance
  4. Cast close votes and ultimately put them on hold as been too broad

Is that a reasonable approach. Unreasonable? Grumpy? Hysterical?

  • I agree that asking questions containing many questions can be very difficult to answer and since this format is "best answer possible" then i believe that a "best answer" cannot be given to such questions. I was the one that upvoted the question. I did it because i liked the enthusiam this user showed. Seen in retrospective it might have been wrong of me to upvote it since it can give the impression that asking such questions with many questions inside is ok. Tomorrow i will try to edit the question to make the frame and content more suitable for our format so that a best answer can be found.
    – user2424
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 23:06
  • 1
    @Lanka, no worries about the up vote; I offset it with a down vote. Regarding editing the question on behalf of the OP, we've talked about that in meta in a few spots because some new participants really seem to resent having a major edit of their work and we need to be careful not to change their meaning. Might be safest to give them a chance to make their own needed revise. Kind of you to offer though! =)
    – Robin111
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 0:22
  • Thank you very much Robin - both for the vote and the advice. I Appreciate it. I will then not touch the question because i see that it cannot be changed without changing the entire structure and thereby making it different from the OP.
    – user2424
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 10:50

4 Answers 4


I think there's a lot of overlap. It's poorly written, I think, with no explanation. Better would be a couple of more general questions around stewardship and the environment. Most of the questions could be combined, I think.

  • When you closed it you asked that it be pared down to a single question instead of asking for it to be split into multiple questions. IMO that seemed like a clever response, given that they were too similar to split. May I ask, what do you think of the new question which replaced it: was that more answerable?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 15:46

I think questions should be tightly focused so that it is obvious what is being asked. Ultimately we what people and search engine to find our content.

I agree with the above.

I don't think the problem is much the count of "? marks in a question, but if the whole is clear and coherent. In other words, I don't think there is a problem having many questions within a question. But a "bare enumeration" format with very tiny sentences for each question is something else: the individual questions may not be very clear, and they don't seem contribute to understand the doubts of the questioner.

@ChrisW answer has elaborated on his own question formats with lots of sub-questions. As someone who posted answers to them, I can say I like them.

I think they have a very focused theme (a main question mark), they may even come with a current thesis informing from where the person comes from. And the lots of (related) sub-questions either add to understand his place (which indirectly adds to the understanding of the question) or adds to the question itself, but still grounded in the main question. Furthermore, even if a sub-question, by itself, comes as opening broad territory, its surrounding context still makes one feel rooted in the main question, and so a reader (and an answer) may not get so distracted by it.

On the answer side, I don't think chris' examples tax who wants to write an answer (as the enumeration taxes). First because an elaborated question is very personal, whereas the bare enumeration...

...is the opposite. Also they are more superficial. If something is not very clear or seem broad, there is this short period of trying to decode it. The problem for me is trying to decode an impersonal, one-sentence question, that is, to put the effort to understand and write an answer for a question that did not get the same effort -- and perhaps, have not much importance for the one who posted it?

In this format, all sub-questions have the same weight, and it seems to me it only takes one of these sub questions to come as too broad or difficult to understand to be put off with the entire post, whereas a clear question still can be answered, and one is free to just ignore sub-questions he is not interested in trying to understand or answer. Presumably, voting is still as clear as any other simple question.

Finally, to go back to one of chris examples, a short answer may still satisfy the core question: Andrei's answer, the accepted one, is very short.

The question of matter (Buddhism's views on environmental stewardship questions) is interesting in this discussion, I think, because there are many sub-questions, they are in the same theme, and yet don't seem quite right.

I would try to synthesize all this as: if we can at least delineate "a main question"....not necessarily to be able to succinctly write it down in a sentence (since many of our doubts have trouble with being boxed that way), but if we can identify a point that is the main one asked to be clarified, we might be in the good track regardless of the number of parts a question has?


With these questions I would like to

  1. Politely ask OP to split them up
  2. Wait a bit
  3. Ask again and inquire if they need any editing assistance
  4. Cast close votes and ultimately put them on hold as been too broad

I think the above is ungrumpy, unhysterical and reasonable.

  • 1
    That this was a research assignment assigned to a high school student certainly sheds some light on his unusual multi sentence format. :)
    – Robin111
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 20:03

A couple of us did politely suggest to the OP this morning that this question be split up. There are some good questions there but answering it as it stands will be an undertaking along the lines of writing an entire term paper. It's unlikely there will be much of a response due to all of the information being requested.

I think your suggestions 1 - 4 are very reasonable.

  • Do you think that there are (that someone else could and/or you could answer with) separate substantial answers for each of those 10 questions?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 22:52
  • @ChrisW, no many of the questions are similar.
    – Robin111
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 0:07

This question about the environment was posted recently

Re. this specific question (i.e. Buddhism's views on environmental stewardship questions), your own question on that subject (i.e. Are ecological concerns supported explicitly in Buddhism?) suggests that very broadly the answer is that Buddhism doesn't have very much of a view on that subject. Some Buddhists do, but Buddhism as a whole doesn't ... not explicitly anyway (though someone could try make an argument based on general principles of non-violence, poisons, benevolence, kamma, etc.).

Do you think that each of the 10 sub-questions could stand on its own, and attract useful separate specific answers?

The reason I don't like them is

My opinion (vote) is to suggest that it's OK.

  • Partly because my own questions have many sub-questions:

    • Is rebirth a delusional belief? was popular (upvoted) but contains 10 question marks. Its accepted answer (from Thiago) has 7 parts to address 7 quotes from the question.

      Yet I don't think the question would have been better as 10 separate questions.

    • My next-most-popular question is How to explain what Buddhism is? which has 5 subquestions.

    • The next-most-popular after that is What are examples of identity-view? with 10 subquestions (and a corresponding 8 subparts to Thiago's answer).

    A reason for asking so many questions-in-one migt be to say that "an answer to any or all of these questions would be helpful and on-topic".

  • The response to this meta-topic, Whether and how to moderate low-quality questions? seemed to be that criticizing (or, worse, closing) question is unpopular. In the proposed answer I suggested only 3 such reasons (i.e. "off-topic", "polling", and "exact duplicate"). Plus there's this which suggests a fourth reason (i.e. "flaming"). But we don't even close a question if it's unclear!

  • They're all on a related topic. If you think that having so many questions makes the question "too broad" then that's not a reason to close either: the proposal for "broad" questions is to write "shallow" replies. Perhaps a one-sentence answer in reply to each of the 10 question, or a one-paragraph answer in reply to half of the 10 questions, is what the OP needs at this stage. Maybe they don't know the first thing about the subject, and so ask a broad question about it. They can "drill down" (i.e. ask a subsequent, narrower question) after someone has answered their first question[s].

Why oblige someone to answer everything you've ever wanted to know about Buddhism in one post? Give them a break.

Your answer could start with, "You asked many question so I'm just going to say the first thing about each one. Please post a new question about a single, specific topic if there's something of this that you want to know more about."

Maybe an answer could identify which of the subquestions are answerable and which aren't, with a hint of how you might answer them.

Asking question is hard when you don't know what you're asking about.

In fairness - at least the above question was around a theme.

Yes. If they weren't I'd be inclined to be more brutal:

  • Put it on hold (with an explanatory note) until the OP edits and reposts as several/separate questions (or just one question)
  • Edit the question to delete the 'extra' questions, leaving only one 'main' question, with a note to the OP that you expect one question per topic and that they could please post any extra questions in new topics.

Whether questions are sufficiently thematic is subjective. I recently made this edit to a question to clarify its theme and justify its have 4 sub-questions.

With these questions I would like to (1. through 4.) Is that a reasonable approach. Unreasonable? Grumpy? Hysterical?

I don't know, I have no answer for that for the moment (I can neither confirm nor deny it).

On the subject of closing in general, though:

  • If you're not a moderator and think that a question should be closed, then:

    • Vote to close
    • Leave a constructive comment saying why ("constructive" meaning "helpfully explaining how to fix it")

    If other people agree they'll vote to close too.

  • If you are a moderator and you're sure a question should be closed, then close it (and leave a comment). Moderators have a SVT ("single vote to close").

    Note that yuttadhammo♦ very rarely uses his unilateral vote to close: and when he does it's usually on questions which break the "no polling for multiple opinions" rule (which is relatively objective to determine), rather than any more subjective quality rule.

  • If you are a moderator and you're not sure a question should be closed, then hold back. Delay. See whether other users vote to close and/or comment. See whether the questions attracts good or bad answers. Talk with other moderators. Maybe put it on hold (with a comment) until it's discussed on meta (and invite the user to open a topic on meta to discuss how to fix the problem you identified in a comment, or open the meta-topic yourself).

    A moderator who unilaterally votes to close a question, when other users disagree with that decision, may find themselves have to justify/explain their action to members of the community who don't agree.

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